Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

June 17, 2011

The Adventures of Me and My Masked Friends

The Raccoons in Toronto are making news headlines of late. And unfortunately most of the stories are negative. The worst being one man who decided to take matters (and his anger) into his own hands and release it with force through the use of a shovel on a family of Raccoons.

And with that, a rally followed, with people voicing their unhappiness with the Raccoon population in our fine city.

I get it that we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for our homes in Toronto and we want to keep them nice. But what human can honestly strike down on any living thing as this man did and still call himself human?

I am not going to go on about the list of complaints I read and hear regarding these interesting creatures.

But, I would like to share a few personal experiences I have had with them in my time. If anything, I hope someone might read these tales and realize that they aren't such menacing destructive little monsters.

First one happening approximately 2 decades ago. I was working for a dumpy little truck rental company. We had a location off Dixie Road and Hwy 401 in Mississauga. It was a large yard to park all the rental trucks, the office was an old house, and in the back where the vehicles were serviced was like an old loading dock with a small warehouse. At one part of the loading dock there was a large dumpster which happened to be level with the dock. In my travels one morning, I walked past the dumpster, and normally I never take notice to what is inside but for some reason today I stopped. From a passing view it looked empty as it was dumped the day before. When actually stopping and looking down, I could see one brown paper bag someone had tossed in being the remnants of their lunch and sitting next to it was one very large Raccoon. He sat there looking up at me and of course I could sense his concern for his current predicament.

Part of me was going to panic as I needed to save this guy, who is about 5 down in this large steel bin, and I had no idea at that moment on how to do it. Sure, I thought I could just jump in with him and lift him out, but would this wild animal in distress allow me to do such a thing? Mind you, he just sat there, looking up at me and showed no distemperment but that could change if I acted upon my initial thought.

The lot had a row of trees to the south and a field. And too often garbage was dumped in the field since it was unoccupied. None of which was done by the people of the company. We'd just come into work for 6am and find piles of crap dumped by people in the middle of the night when nobody was around. The 70+ old tires was a real nice surprise (not!). But back to my story...

I searched and scoured around in hopes of finding something to use to help this guy. But nothing was coming up (even in all the garbage). Finally I decided to try and break off a branch long enough to reach him. Now, I am not Mr. Muscle Guy, so breaking off a large sturdy branch just wasn't in the cards. I did manage to snap one off with a circumference of about 1.5 inches at it's strongest point. Now what happens as the branch nears it's end, yes, it gets thinner. I was unsure of the length as well, it seemed close enough, but how close? Well, I was going to try.

I returned to the bin and lowered the branch down, holding onto the thicker end for more support. The branch clearly wasn't long enough to hit the bottom but that Raccoon jumped up at it and grabbed hold of what he could and from that, he began his climb up. At this point I am frozen. Here I am holding this flimsy branch and a full sized adult Raccoon is climbing up it right towards me. I am kneeling on the dock since the branch wasn't long enough. I bet some people probably would have let go of the branch at this point in fear or just the shock of it; but I held on with one part frozen in shock and another part with my determination to help this animal.

I am wondering how this was going to end? Am I going to lift the branch up as he got near in order to get him back onto the dock? I mean, I am holding this end, my hands are over the dock edge. How is he going get past me? Well, he answered my question seconds later as he made a jump just before my hands and landed next to me. If I wasn't there, I don't know if I would believe what I just saw. He darted off along the dock, but did stop about 10 feet from me, turned and looked at me for a second, and then continued on, disappearing off into the field. I'd like to think that last look was a "thank you".

From that day on, I always checked the bin. And I bugged and bugged the waste company to bring us one with a lid to ensure this would not happen again... and they did change bin for us.

So, twenty years ago, I am still in awe with that moment and I revisit it in my mind from time to time when I see Raccoons in my travels.

Another interesting brief moment I had was when I was in my backyard one day a few years back and I saw a Raccoon climbing down my old tv tower. Here it is 5 in the afternoon and this guy is coming down off my roof. He hits the ground and is coming towards me. What do I do? Stoop down and reach out my hand. What does he do? Walk right up to me, sniffs my fingers, nose touching them, and then he continues his way down to the back of the yard and disappears into the tall cedars. How cool is that? Of course I did a round about over the house making sure he was not coming from within anywhere but all was good. A few of the animals use the roof tops to get about in a sort of safer travel path away from the traffic and unfriendly humans.

In my 41 and a bit years on this planet, I have not had a bad experience with these animals. I am stunned when I see my elder neighbours have freak outs when they discover one sleeping in a tree. Even a guy slightly younger than me lost it when he found one sleeping up in one of his trees as well and he was hellbound on getting it out of his tree. Now of all times to see one of these creatures, sleeping in a tree, is there really a need to get so upset?

I need to study animal totems. I would bet that a Raccoon is on my totem. And as I think about other wildlife, I take notice how I am drawn to the Northern Cardinal. I also really love Cedar Waxwings. And with Angie and myself having this love for the birds, discovering all the species around us, I found myself also drawn to the Shrikes. So, what's the deal with these birds? Well, all of them have a mask. Coincidence? Maybe. But there could be more to this too. I will get back to yas at another time as I read more on this.

Please enjoy a few photos I have recently taken of our Raccoon friends.

See you next time! Be well, be safe and please be kind to our animal friends!

A nice family portrait of a family I know of not far from me. This shot, actually a more cropped version, can be seen in their "Wild Toronto" section posted just this week.

A close up of one of the babies. This was a moment I was hoping for all through Spring and am happy to have had it with them.

And lastly a Cedar Waxwing. One very cool looking bird.


Angie in TO said...

I really enjoyed your story, and would like to add another one.
One night a few summers ago, as per habit we shined a flashlight out into the backyard, as you never know what little critter your going to see. Well, this night we saw a Mommy raccoon with three little ones. I promptly made a peanut butter sandwich and cut it up into four pieces and threw it out to them. (I don't do this all the time) They sat in a circle and ate their individual sandwiches before moving on as we watched through the window.

Pam Scott said...

I always enjoy your stories and photos, Rob. I've always been one to pause and enjoy the sweet song of the birds. We take for granted Mother Nature and it's time to give her respect.
I was at a workshop this weekend, regarding Deafhood and how Deaf people are oppressed. In the presenter's example, he noted how the aboriginals had it right all along, by only taking what was necessary and yet providing for the next 7 generations. Unfortunately the europeans got greedy and now we are paying for their ignorance. When I hear about wildlife in the city and how upset people get, it bothers me. No one has yet to pause and think, how these animals might feel. WE took over their homes and yet, we expect them to stay behind the fence.
I am privileged to live in the country, where I can see the birds, the deer, the occasional groundhog. I am honoured to be blessed by their lives. So in order to do that, I will slow down as not to hit them. I will feed the birds birdseed and not bread. I will look at them and say, "thank you" for teaching me the value of life.
I appreciate the outlook you and Angie have. By enjoying your photos & stories, you have inspired me even more. I'm glad the Toronto Star finally showed your photo of the raccoons. Maybe it will give someone else pause. :)

socurly said...

Toronto is the Raccoon capital of the world. David Suzuki has a great documentary about their habits in Toronto. Everynight raccoons come to eat whatever the birds, squirrels and bunnies have left under the feeder. I have spent hours watching them in my yard lately. (I am homebound fighting breast cancer.)

Rob said...

Thanks Pam. Always nice to know someone is reading this stuff. LOL! And your added bits is appreciated and enhances this blog. As does Angie's tale of our peanut butter sandwiches.

Lily, nice to see you again, and I am so sorry to learn what is happening in your life right now. I wish you all the strength to beat this. Watching our animals friends is like yoga... well, to those of us who truly enjoy them.

Chantal Theijn said...

Thank you Rob. That is a great story. As a wildlife rehabber I get great satisfaction out of trying to outsmart the raccoon rehabbing at my facility by trying to hide their food...They ALWAYS win :-)